Where people who use Strava ride their bikes

Click to use the interactive map.

Click to use the interactive map.

Strava is an online service that allows people with a smart phone or GPS device to track their bike rides and share the data with others. It’s very popular in distance and racing circles and has a (sometimes problematic) competitive element to it, but like any tool people can use it to track whatever kind of bike ride they want to.

The company has put together a heat map showing the most common bike routes used by Strava users, and the result is pretty much a map of historic and long-loved regional bike routes.

Obviously, this map only represents a small percentage of people who bike, and only a percentage of their bike trips. People are more likely to track longer rides, which explains why this map is a pretty accurate compilation of popular recreational rides and longer commute routes.

For example, the Mercer Island Loop is one of the most popular routes on the map even though the transportation utility of the loop is very limited unless you live on the island.

But it’s a cool insight and verification of regional bike routes. You can also play around with the map to look at running routes. Check it out.

Notice anything interesting in the Strava data? Any surprises? Share your thoughts below.

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28 Responses to Where people who use Strava ride their bikes

  1. Richard says:

    It really clarifies just how badly we need safe infrastructure downtown. In theory, since this is strava activity (I agree with your statement that this data should skew long-distance and recreational), downtown should be underrepresented – but in spite of that pretty much the entire downtown grid is lit up with extremely high usage.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      A lot of people track their commutes, so it would make sense downtown is well-represented.

      But yes, we need safe infrastructure downtown. Bad.

  2. Taylor says:

    Strava should have something like hash tags or some way for users to flag, recreational, exercise, comulte and just riding around town.

    I have emailed them about this

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      That’s a great idea. After all, I don’t want to follow a line made by someone doing hill training :-)

    • West Sea Neighbor says:

      FWIW, I believe there is a checkbox on the edit activity page where you can mark the ride as either “trainer” or “commute”…

      • Southeasterner says:

        Yup. I use Strava every day to track my commutes or weekend rides.

        I check off my commutes as commutes but I haven’t found a way to extract commute vs. non-commute data. So I’m not sure how that information is actually being used?

        However, given it’s out there they should provide (or sell) that info to communities to help them improve infrastructure in areas where people are going. I know there are privacy concerns but your cell phone provider is already selling your location info to whoever will buy it (including state and city agencies).

  3. Josh says:

    WSDOT has a bit of a history of assuming their projects have zero bicycle impact unless there’s an official bike lane or path. This leads to failing to consider bicycle access when scoping projects.

    Strava’s data may skew towards affluent tech-savvy competitive riders, but it’s far better than no data at all, and it’s fast, and free. I’ve suggested to WSDOT engineers that they take a quick look at Strava in the initial scoping phase of every project.

    Lack of Strava data doesn’t prove cyclists don’t use a facility, but even one Strava ride record can counter the “nobody rides there” assumption.

    • B says:

      Along the same lines (no pun intended), it would also give traffic planners a regional view for planning in order to actually connect communities together. Nothing more frustrating than trying to find a safe bike route that starts as a bike lane in one area and ends up as a narrow shoulder-less death gauntlet as you cross into another community. Right now there’s next to no regional coordination for planning of safe routes between communities.

  4. Brian Porter says:

    45th St gets more Strava users than the Wallingford Greenway one block over. I’m surprised by that.

    The Westlake redesign will be excellent as well. Look at how many people currently use it in its parking lot configuration!

    Aurora Ave between Denny and Fremont is such a wall to east-west cycle travel.

    • Richard says:

      I think this is using a pretty long historical data set. I say this because, for example, look at 28th St NE (north of Bellevue, south side of 520) just west of 84th Ave; showing very high usage… but it’s been closed since, what, August I think?
      So what you’re seeing represents the average of the unknown time period, rather than good representation of current trends. So, maybe the greenway gets more traffic now, who knows.

      Would be nice if you could adjust the sampled period…

    • doug says:

      I use Strava to record my commutes, so my data is represented in the map. I also ride from Wallingford to U-District on those commutes pretty frequently. However, I almost never use the greenway despite the western terminus being about two blocks from my house.

      The greenway is very slow. The very frequent uncontrolled intersections are pretty stressful so I ride more slowly through them. Compare this to 45th, where I can easily maintain 15-20mph with very little effort. The traffic is no problem for me.

      I understand that I am not an average cyclist. I’m not the fastest, but according to Strava I am often in the top 10% of the speed rankings. Strava tends to attract faster cyclists anyways, so I am probably faster and stronger than most Seattle cyclists. These traits make using 45th (especially eastbound) more attractive to me.

      That said, when I get my baby daughter on my bike I’ll be using the greenway far more!

      So it’s not really surprising that few Strava users use the greenway. Many of them are relatively experienced riders whose route criteria often does not overlap with the newer facilities designed to attract novices and other slower users.

      • Gordon says:

        To be fair, the Wallingford Greenway was SDOT’s first attempt to make one, but unfortunately they have yet to go back and implement all the things they have since learned.

      • Jessica says:

        I live in Wallingford on 45th and I also use 45th rather than the Greenway and I am not a fast or particularly daring biker. I avoid 40th St through Wallingford because it’s narrow and cars tend to squeeze past you. The Greenway is not appealing because of the roundabouts and like Doug mentions, the many uncontrolled intersections. Also, it kind of dead-ends. How am I supposed to get from it to the U District?

  5. RTK says:

    The split at Eastlake and Fairview is interesting. I wouldn’t have thought it would be that even.

    Also a fair amount of Lake City Way / 35 th NE traffic, I would have thought the difference between this route and the BGT would be greater.

    Also points out that 1st should be given more consideration in future plans improvement plans through SODO and South Seattle.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I think there’s sort of a popularity ceiling in the line thickness they use. Otherwise, yeah, the Burke-Gilman would be way thicker than, say, Boyer or the Mercer Island Loop.

  6. 47hasbegun says:

    My favorite part is how it includes stuff that’s pretty far out, like the Kitsap Peninsula, Olympic Peninsula, Whidbey Island, eastern Snohomish County, Skagit County, and even further. This’ll be a good source of ideas for my own rides, as I already have enough rides in the area for a map of my own and find myself straining for new ideas.

    • 47hasbegun says:

      Here is a link that works. Google has been doing nasty things to Picasa Web Albums.

    • doug says:

      There are some pretty far-flung routes recorded here. I’m surprised someone else attempted to take the back way to Spada Lake, for example. It’s four miles of grueling bushwacking!

      Or that FR23 over Babyshoe Pass is becoming a very popular bike route! I kind of already knew that, I guess: At least six other cyclists went over the pass the same day in July my group of four went over! Not bad for an unpaved pass in the middle of nowhere!

      • 47hasbegun says:

        I noticed that the Mountain Loop Highway is pretty popular, but there’s a long stretch of gravel at its farthest reaches and snow at Barlow Pass during the Winter. Pretty wild!

  7. Andres Salomon says:

    I mentioned this on twitter already, but the heat map shows the power of infrastructure. Look at the 39th Ave NE Greenway, for example. Lots of people using it up until it’s terminus at NE 80th, and then it drops off quickly. People use it *because* it’s a good greenway. One might think that people were already using it (and SDOT just happened to plop down a greenway over it), but if that were true there would be more activity past the end of the greenway. 39th also sees more usage than the nearby arterial 40th Ave. Strava’s running data shows a similar information; people are using the greenway to run, and then stopping where it ends.

    Even the not-so-great bike lanes on Roosevelt get a lot of usage. People in Seattle are clamoring for good bike (and ped) infrastructure, and will flock to it once it’s built. Let’s build more.

    • RTK says:

      This could be one of the great uses for this data if you could isolate time periods.
      What changed when a greenway was opened?
      What changed when Nickerson or 75th NE were rechannelized.

  8. Al Dimond says:

    Let’s go to the eastside!

    This map makes a great case for why the Cross Kirkland Corridor needs a better connection than what’s currently planned to the Sammamish River Trail, and the potential for improving the last bit of the East Lake Sammamish route into Redmond one way or another.

    Also, it drives home what a crime against humanity the 405/NE 8th interchange in Bellevue is, and that the intersection at NE 8th/112th has lots of non-motorized users that deserve better accommodations.

    On the north end of things, enough people bike on Bothell-Everett Highway that it’s worth actually keeping the blackberries back from the bike lanes. And people generally, sensibly, avoid crossing I-5 on S 164th in SnoHoCo, but a lot of people have to do it anyway, and do so in great enough numbers to warrant a better road layout there.

  9. Al Dimond says:

    Here’s an amusing detail: the way cell/GPS signals go out in tunnels is seen clearly on this map at the I-90 bike tunnel. Also on the 37th St tunnel under I-90 on the eastside. There are some other odd gaps that might suggest weak GPS reception or cell dead zones (around the Issaquah Alps).

    The only other tunnels I can think of that get a lot of cycling use are in Chicago. They all have similar patterns:

    – Damen under the big railyard south of Roosevelt, and it has a similar pattern (the tracks are on a big “lid” there — just a few blocks east at Ashland or Blue Island they’re somewhat more porous and the gaps are less pronounced).
    – The path under LSD south of Soldier Field (I used to run there a ton).
    – Everything goes totally crazy among the skyscrapers in the Loop. Radio reception also goes crazy there. Downtown Seattle does not exhibit this because Seattle is a puny backwater with no tall buildings.

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